The human brain has a negativity bias and we are alive today because of this! Our ancestors were on the alert for danger every second they were out and about, hunting and gathering. They were on the look-out at all times for predators so they could react immediately, ‘Run!’ or stand and fight.
Today, this propensity to fear the worse, is still strongly imprinted on our brains. In fact, when we experience happy things or positive things, according to Rick Hanson of ‘Buddha’s Brain’ they tend to slip away like ‘teflon’. While negative experience sticks like ‘velcro’.
Remember when you got good feedback for something you did? Did you then dwell on that, or did you ruminate over the bit where you made a tiny mistake or forgot something that no-one else noticed? It’s quite common to focus on the bit you get wrong!
Today, we’re not dealing with sabre-toothed tigers, yet the simplest cure for negativity is still alertness! Be alert! Notice when your mind is full of self-critical thoughts, undermining your skills and generally putting a dampener on what’s happening in your life. You may find it’s a familiar place and might even feel more normal than feeling happy and positive!
As humans we respond to stressful situations in different ways. When we feel fearful or anxious about situations we’re in, we respond automatically.
When something happens unexpectedly, do you freak out? Pretend it’s not bothering you (with a stiff upper lip)? Get angry? Withdraw? Your reaction will follow a pattern of behaviour that may well have been happening in a similar way since childhood.
So your ‘cure’ for negativity is awareness and understanding. Eckhart Tolle, in ‘The Power of Now’, describes it as our ‘ … endless preoccupation with past and future and an unwillingness to honour and acknowledge the present moment and allow it to be … The moment your attention turns to the Now, you feel a presence, a stillness, a peace.’
Next time your mind is filling your head with, ‘should haves, could haves’, give yourself a kind smile. Know that you don’t have to go down the path of negativity – it’s probably a deeply engrained habit.
And next time you experience something fantastic – however small that might be, let it sink in and feel really good about yourself! It’s the only place where you are in charge of your power – nothing more can be done about the past, and you can’t yet do anything about the future. Right here, right now, it’s OK!
PS Do you agree humans have a tendency to negativity or are you a cheerful person? Do let me know in the Comments below.
How Sabre-toothed tigers became extinct
Wild tiger numbers are at an all-time low. We have lost 97% of wild tigers in just over a century. Tigers may be one of the most revered animals, but they are also vulnerable to extinction. As few as 3,200 exist in the wild today.
Good books about what’s going on in our brains:
This blog post updated since first published 7 February 2015